The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Letters to Editor

Short-sighted Dalits

Sir — Another “daily occurrence” in Uttar Pradesh. “CM Mayavati brings no cheer to Dalits” (Sept 4), talks of a 14-year-old girl being gangraped first and then murdered and the fight for justice of her father in the heartless state capital, Lucknow. The problem with people like Dayaram, the father, is that they, and their peasant brotherhood, understand very little politics. Otherwise, they would have known that Dalit-pandering in UP is now infra dig. The wheels turned after the Kalyan Singh government. Remember, it was an upper caste Rajnath Singh who ruled over them. In the assembly elections that followed, parties fell over each other to provide sops to the upper caste lobby in the state. And if Mayavati, the Dalit queen, polled a largish vote, it was because she had managed to successfully woo the urban upper castes. So if the Dalit Act is being given a short shrift, it is not entirely because of its misuse. The rapists know that as well as Mayavati. Will someone tell Dayaram that'

Yours faithfully,
J. Acharya, Calcutta

Another death chamber

Sir — The report, “When will we learn to take care of our children'” (Sept 3), was heart-wrenching. I felt outraged by the needless loss of innocent lives. The report, however, also gives me hope for the future. I am hopeful because unlike yesterday, today at least the story of such “daily occurrences” and human savagery are being brought to light by the media. This is the first step towards building up social resistance that will go a long way in stopping deaths, of both children and adults, from medical negligence in India.

What shocked me the most in the report is the attitude of the hospital administration and the state health department towards the tragic loss of lives of children. The first thing they tried to do was avoid responsibility, shift the blame to others and somehow protect the interests of their peers. This is a tactic that the government and medicos in India have always adopted. It is simply unimaginable that the only referral state hospital for children in West Bengal does not even have the minimum basic infrastructure. It is equally appalling to find the opposition losing no time to reap benefits from this sad episode. Can the removal of the ruling government guarantee a change in the condition of the state hospitals'

The worst part in such cases of medical negligence is when victims’ families try to question their irreparable loss. There is hardly any chance that they will find an answer. The existing system of redressal against medical negligence in India is grossly flawed and geared only to protect the errant healthcare personnel. The only practical recourse is to file a complaint to the state medical council, the only body legally empowered to investigate and take action against the errant physicians. Unfortunately, the medical council is made of doctors only, and it is common knowledge that they tend to stick together to protect their fellow colleagues. There is hardly any chance of victory in the consumers’ protection agencies like the district or state consumer forum without an indictment from a medical body. Going to the judiciary with criminal or civil complaint against the errant doctors is time-consuming, expensive and can never be a practical solution for the average Indian. The only other medical body that could have possibly played a role towards preventing malpractice is the Indian Medical Association, the largest medical society in the country. Unfortunately, like the medial council, the IMA too remains hamstrung. If any of these medical bodies had acted on good faith only, then the death of so many children could never be a regular occurrence in a state hospital or private nursing homes.

Yours faithfully,
Kunal Saha, Ohio, US

Sir — Decades ago, Gour Kishore Ghosh, the noted journalist, had suggested sarcastically that the Marxist government in West Bengal should set up burning ghats beside state-run hospitals so that patients’ relatives were at least saved the trouble of disposing of the dead bodies. The B.C. Roy Memorial Hospital is ironically named after a person who treated patients even on the day of his death. This criminal negligence on the part of the government would have ashamed anybody other than the Marxists. In any other country, the health secretary and the director of health services would have been charged with mass murder. No such luck in West Bengal. One wonders if the situation would have been the same had relatives of the Marxist bosses suffered the same fate.

Yours faithfully,
Tapan Das Gupta, Calcutta

Sir — The callousness that the management of the B.C. Roy Memorial Hospital has shown is ridiculous. If the superintendent thinks that his brain does not function in times of crises like this, he has no right to occupy a position as important as his. However, recent developments also indicate that the government is taking advantage of precisely this weakness of the superintendent to make him the scapegoat.

Yours faithfully,
Sumant Poddar, Calcutta

Sir — The death of children at the B.C. Roy Memorial Hospital is shameful. Had such an incident occurred in any other state ruled by the National Democratic Alliance partners, the left would have protested most vociferously, staged dharnas and demanded the resignation of the health minister. Here the health minister is being shielded from the media glare. Why does not the Communist Party of India (Marxist) ask its committed and disciplined cadre to donate a day’s salary every month to meet the shortage of oxygen cylinders and medicines for the poor who they have pledged to serve'

Yours faithfully,
Bijoy Menon, New Delhi

Sir — The damage control measures initiated by the chief minister cannot hide the fact that the state health minister, Surya Kanta Mishra,is blatantly insensitive. If he knew that children are dying each day in the hospital why did he not take corrective steps to prevent it'

Yours faithfully,
Aparajita Dasgupta, Calcutta

Sir — The chief minister’s late awakening to the enormity of the tragedy at the B.C. Roy Memorial Hospital does not dilute the public shock at the government’s initial reactions (“Buddha’s heart bleeds at last”, Sept 5). That the superintendent of the hospital is the one being blamed for the episode shows that no one in the government is answerable or accountable to the public.

Yours faithfully,
Basudeb Bhattacharya, Calcutta

Sir — If this is the situation in a hospital which is at a stone’s throw away from the Writers’ Buildings, one shudders to think what the condition must be in the rural health centres.

Yours faithfully,
Sudarshan Nandi, Midnapore

Sir — If Surya Kanta Mishra thinks the episode is “normal”, why did he make such a hullabaloo of cleaning up hospitals when he first took office' Was it a publicity stunt'

Yours faithfully,
Rajarshi Ghosh, Calcutta

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